Weekend spurs local commerce

Published 5:50 pm Sunday, November 28, 2010

Julia Georgeoff, owner of Sophia’s Closet in downtown Niles, helps out with decorating Main Street, Saturday. Small businesses hoped to gain from a busy weekend for holiday shopping.

Julia Georgeoff, owner of Sophia’s Closet in downtown Niles, helps out with decorating Main Street, Saturday. Small businesses hoped to gain from a busy weekend for holiday shopping.

It’s been a busy weekend for local businesses.

Along with a push to sway Black Friday shoppers through their doors, small business owners banded together to bring commerce to their respective downtowns this weekend with two big events, the Holiday Homecoming in downtown Niles and a “White Saturday” event in Buchanan.

“Yesterday (Saturday) and Friday were crazy mess busy,” said Jerri Lea Fields, an employee and member of the family-owned Slocum’s Gifts Decor and More in Buchanan.

Fields said the traffic inside the store increased over the weekend and estimated “twice the sales (Saturday, Nov. 27) than a typical Saturday.”

During the “White Saturday” event, some of the businesses in downtown Buchanan offered special promotions, while others hosted guests with light refreshments and showed off new merchandise for the season, along with live music at Union Coffee House.

Santa also made the rounds this weekend, stopping in Buchanan and making his way over to Niles, where Niles Main Street hosted the Holiday Homecoming and the official lighting of downtown Niles.

The event was another way to celebrate the holiday season while encouraging customers to shop local — a topic of conversation among many as more and more communities are adopting the idea of shop local Saturdays.

“When you make a conscious choice to support your neighborhood small businesses, the money you spend helps build strong businesses that then have the resources to give back and support community events and activities,” Lisa Croteau, executive director of Niles Main Street said prior to the weekends activities. “By supporting your local businesses you are fostering the growth of a strong community.”

Niles’ small businesses reported various results in terms of business seen over one of the busiest weekends for shoppers all year.

“It comes in waves,” said Sue Majerek, of Majerek’s Gift Shoppe and Majerek’s Reader’s World.

Majerek has stocked the store with several new items for the holiday season and she said she makes a point of taking extra time to shop for quality merchandise at reasonable prices so she can pass those prices on to her customers.

On Black Friday, Majerek said the traffic in her store was light in the morning but picked up in the afternoon.

“The traffic is never big in the morning because (customers) are all over at the big boxed stores,” she said.

But as many will no doubt be doing plenty of shopping for the holiday season over the next few weeks, Majerek said she hopes customers will consider shopping local first for unique finds.

“I just had a customer that came in,” she said, “and said she searched all over for something and she found it in my store.”

During the Holiday Homecoming event in downtown on Saturday, Majerek said she didn’t see much of a turnout at her store.

“It was not great,” she said.

But just a few doors over, at the recently opened Trailhead Mercantile, owner BrianWilliams said the event served his store well.

“Black Friday was mediocre at best,” Williams said.

Saturday, he said, was better.

“Lots of foot traffic,” Williams said. “Lots of new customers. Lots of people discovering we were here.”

As more and more organizations like Niles Main Street and other downtown development authorities push for residents to shop local, Williams said the necessity of such commerce is evident.

“I think it’s highly important,” he said. “Not just for me but for the local economy in general.”

Studies, he said, have shown “communities with a strong shop local program held out a lot beter through the economic downtown.”

Williams said he’ll continue to offer various promotions each week during the holiday season in the hopes of getting more customers through the door.